A St. Louis County Circuit Court judge has ruled in favor of Monarch Fire Protection District firefighters in a lawsuit filed last year challenging the district board’s failure to make a promotion to captain from those on an existing eligibility list.
In a decision entered July 8, Judge Mary Elizabeth Ott ruled the Monarch Board of Directors must promote one of the three firefighter/paramedics on the then-current promotion list to a captain’s position. Further, the judge said the board cannot conduct any further promotion testing until one of the eligible firefighter/paramedics is named to the captain’s position.
Contacted for his reaction to the ruling, Robin Harris, Monarch board chairman, said there never was a question about the promotion eligibility of Thomas Beauchamp II, one of the three on the eligibility list who filed the lawsuit against the district last fall. Instead, Harris said, the issue was one of staffing levels. The question was whether Monarch needed 18 or 21 firefighter-paramedics serving at the captain rank.
Harris said a subsequent staffing level review showed Beauchamp was filling the captain’s position a vast majority of the time on an acting basis due to vacation days, sick leave and other time off of those serving as captains. On that basis, Harris continued, the district recently extended an offer to the firefighters to promote Beauchamp to the permanent rank of captain.
“The court said to make a promotion so we did,” Harris said, adding that the board already had made the promotion offer before the ruling.
The firefighters’ lawsuit was filed last fall. In the aftermath, the Monarch board of directors agreed in a consent order that it would not promote anyone to fill a vacancy for a captain’s position in the department other than three employees then on a current eligibility list.
As to further action, Harris said the district’s legal counsel has been asked to review the overall decision and to recommend if any other board action is appropriate.
For their part, Monarch’s firefighters say the court’s decision confirms their charges that the Monarch board violated promotion procedures in the district’s collective bargaining agreement with Local 2665 of the International Association of Firefighters.
The union has said that the Monarch board wanted to change how promotion candidate evaluations are conducted and create a new list of qualified candidates after the then-existing list of candidates expired.